Thursday, 14 May 2009

I remember you... My people have forgotten Me...

It must be 50 years ago but somehow it has stayed in my mind. It was a large poster outside a Methodist church in my home town. It read:
God gives and forgives
man gets and forgets.
I am reading Jeremiah in my morning times. The second chapter is an almost relentless accusation against the faithlessness of His people but the chapter begins on a very different note; “Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘I remember you, The kindness of your youth, The love of your betrothal, When you went after Me in the wilderness, In a land not sown. Israel was holiness to the LORD, Jer 2:2-3. Unless you have read your Bible very carefully you might be hard pressed to 'remember' the event that God has in mind. The failure of the people is an almost constant theme of Exodus and Numbers. 'Almost' but not quite without a brief gleam of light.

While the Covenant was still being established the people turned aside in their spiritual promiscuity to worship golden calves that Aaron had made. God was ready to wipe them out and start again with a single man, Moses. But Moses interceded and God heard his prayer, re-wrote the two tablets of stone and reinstated the Covenant. There followed a whole year of Tabernacle building and the people in the full flush of their gratitude gave their offerings to God with such abandonment that it resulted in the most unusual financial appeal in history; they were asked to stop bringing their offerings!

This year was a real honeymoon period as God and his people 'set up house' together. It culminated in God taking up residence right at the heart of his people in the Tabernacle. They were wonderful days... and God never forgot them. It is a uniquely divine attribute that God can choose what he remembers and what he refuses to remember.

It is against the backdrop of this continuing memory of 'first love' that God speaks through Jeremiah to the people and there is an interesting contrast that is easily missed. Israel had followed God, When you went after Me in the wilderness, In a land not sown. Jer 2:2. There were no contingencies, no reserves, just absolute abandonment to God; first love will do that every time. The old Methodists sometimes described sanctification as 'the expulsive power of a new affection'. First love is reckless and totally trusting.

The indictment that God brings against Jerusalem in Jeremiah's day is twofold;
1. They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
2. And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.
They had rejected the uncontrollable resources of God for one that they could measure and control. It is one of the sure signs that 'first love' has been lost. We become measured rather than abandoned, controlling rather than trusting. God never forgets the 'first love' and is always ready to refresh and restore. The way back is simple enough... forsake our man-made cisterns and come again to drink from his fresh springs.

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